Researching the criminalisation of young people’s dissent: insights from Southeast Asia

Millora, Chris and Karunungan, Renee Julienne. 2024. Researching the criminalisation of young people’s dissent: insights from Southeast Asia. In: Judith Bessant; Philippa Collin and Patrick O'Keefe, eds. Research Handbook on the Sociology of Youth. Cheltham: Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 69-82. ISBN 9781803921792 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

Youth activism has a long history in Southeast Asia, with a number of countries experiencing a recent reawakening of youth-led social movements. Yet as youth activism in the region persists and transforms, so do the punitive responses from state and non-state actors aimed at limiting and criminalising youth dissent. This chapter describes some of the diverse strategies and techniques of repression of youth social movements in Southeast Asia, focusing particularly on Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, and Malaysia. We demonstrate how governments impose draconian policies - at times under the guise of maintaining peace and security - that allow for the criminalisation and policing of youth and student activists. We also show how agents of repression use social media and other technologies to practise systemic surveillance and censorship. We also explore the power of ‘labelling’ young people as ‘troubled’, ‘lawbreakers’ and ‘inexperienced’ - providing a strong rationale for why control and management of their dissent is said to be necessary. Finally, we point to some of the subtle yet effective mechanisms of ‘soft repression’ such as intimidation and threats about future employment prospects. We argue that much of these tactics build on and exacerbate the vulnerabilities and marginalisation that young people are already facing - compounding the impact of repression on young people’s lives and their activist work in the region.

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Book Section

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"This is a draft chapter. The final version is available in the Research Handbook on the Sociology of Youth edited by Judith Bessant, Philippa Collin, and Patrick O’Keeffe , published in 2024, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd

The material cannot be used for any other purpose without further permission of the publisher, and is for private use only."


Criminalisation; Repression; Youth activism; Student movements; Southeast Asia

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies


16 May 2024Published

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Date Deposited:

28 May 2024 09:07

Last Modified:

28 May 2024 16:09


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